Tuesday, 3 December 2013

And there was a Flamingo

Can't remember how long since I last posted, but it has been a while, months even. So what to tell?

Well visitor season has started with Katrina's sister, soon to be followed by our son Beej for Christmas/New Year and then a steady flow of guests until about April. So we will not be lacking Australian company for the next little while.

5 ton rope meets an end
As expected work has been busy so weekend outings and the like have been rather limited, with work happening one or both days of most weekends. in between we did manage to fit in a second visit to Jabal Akhdar (the Green Mountain) - thanks Liz your visit was timely.

That trip involved a quick dash up Wadi Fanja before a drive to the mountains, aimed at maximising Liz's exposure to the different scenery that Oman offers. On the way up Wadi Fanja we stopped at a water hole to dangle our feet in the water and have them nibbled by little fish. While we were there I heard various cars passing up and down the Wadi and then a range of odd noises followed by animated conversation. Being a nosy sort I poked my head out and took a look.

Three young Omani guys in a Jeep had landed themselves in water up to the window line. Not good I thought, so being civic minded I wandered over and had a bit of a look. No probs got a 5 ton tow rope we'll have you out in a jiffy!  Ahhhh NO. 5 ton rope took up the slack then,...... my Chevy just kept on going, the Jeep never budged. Hmmm, that's really stuck!

Abandoned village
Luckily for them a party going the other way (towing a Hyundai SUV) stopped and lent me their much more substantial tow rope. Multiple full tilt pulls later the Jeep came free, leaving us free to wend our way up to the mountains. Ruined villages, canyons and terraces beckoned and were duly explored. Then all too soon we were back in Muscat and Liz was on her way home to Australia.
Sisters whooping it up

Mind you our adventures took it out of the poor old Chevy and it took almost two weeks to get the parts and everything back in order. Just in time for a long (four day) weekend. So we spent three of those days in the car doing STUFF.

Our first day involved driving to the desert and into it through Bidiya for about three hours before setting up the camp site and relaxing for the night. There were four cars, seven people and four nationalities in our little group - Herman - Dutch, Bob and Ali - Brits, Robby and Lucy - South African and us.

Desert in the morning
We found a dune with a view and camped there. At which point I became our only bogging of the weekend, by driving in last swinging off the line of the others and involuntarily parking in soft sand - axles here we come. Some digging and towing later all was good.

Camp was set up and we settled in to a round of relaxing ales, sunset watching, cooking and admiring the sunset over the rather green desert. It had recently rained and there were little green bushes everywhere. Once the sun had set there was silence, dead silence and one of the best night skies I have ever seen.  Bliss. And then someone discovered there was Internet access and of course Bob's phone rang!

But other than that the night in the desert was fabulous, low temperatures (high teens) so cold that long sleeves were indicated. And of course the obligatory camp fire and tall tales and true?
Over and down

Day two dawned with coffee and bacon rolls. Ahh noice. After which we struck camp and set off to find our way across and out to the beaches for the second night.

This was my first time driving over dunes. Interesting, drive up to what you can't see over and go over it! Trust that the car before you got it right and just go, there is that feeling of oooh aaaah when all you can see is sky as the car noses over and down, then things come into view and you control the descent with gears and throttle to ensure the bump at the bottom is not too hard! This part was okay for the two older cars in the group, but the rather new Pajero ended up with damage to soft panels, front and back. And later in the day the new Land Rover shed a few plastic panels.
How to make a Land Rover more reliable?

We were doing okay getting out of the Desert until by following the purple line on the off-road GPS we ended up in car breaking territory. By consensus we turned back. Thinking we were back where we came in we headed off down a track, but hang on where did that camel farm come from? The nice guys there gave us typical country directions, drive that way to the X, turn right, go about 40k's and.....  So we did and after a total of around 170kms of sand driving we popped out onto a main road, maybe 2km's from a service station. Ahhh refuel and pump the tyres up from sand pressure of about 12psi to 30+psi.

By then of course we were hopelessly behind time and our beach camp site suddenly became a place called Filim a full 100 or so k's earlier than originally planned. Setting up camp in full dark has limited attraction.

Not sure what to make of Filim. Not that we ever worked out exactly where Filim was. So we found an uninhabited beach that had fisherman's shacks made from date palm fronds, co-opted one of them as our kitchen and set up camp around it. Nowhere near as quiet as the desert and much windier, but still a pleasant enough camp.

Camp Filim
In the morning I got up and went for a walk along the beach. It was quite dispiriting as I found lots of dead turtles. Some looked like they'd had run in's with boat propellers and others had clearly been cooked and eaten. But at least there were signs of recent hatching's as well. And then as I walked the beach I saw a wading bird that rather stood out - a bit unusual, yep a Flamingo.

And all too soon it was road time just under 500k's to Muscat and work the next day. It's a great drive down the coast as the terrain changes every half hour or so. Gibber plain, high dune desert, sandy plains, beaches, rocky escarpments in many colours. I could go on and on, but I won't.

The last thing of note that happened was when our little convoy was flagged down by some Chinese guys in a rental Nissan 4wd.  Seems they'd discovered what happens when you ignore the "Caution Dunes Cross the Roads" sign and Police warning board placed before the tag end of the dune. In their words "There was a big bang and then the car would not stop bouncing". They ended up a good 100 plus metres off road, bogged to the axles and leaking radiator fluid. Lucky for them one of our party was a mechanic and able to diagnose the problem. A quick bypass of the heater later they were on the road again. Mind you given the number of zip locks holding the front together they were far from the first people to come to grief in that rental.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful, but it was a very tired David and Katrina heading off to work on Sunday.
And the Flamingo at dawn

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